Stellenbosch wildfire scorches mountains, fanned by strong winds

26 February 2021 - 16:06 By TimesLIVE
Firefighters battled the blaze, burning high in the mountains, overnight. Stock photo.
Firefighters battled the blaze, burning high in the mountains, overnight. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/nirut123rf

Firefighters were on Friday still battling to contain a major wildfire, fanned by hot and windy conditions, that has been burning in the mountains near Stellenbosch.

The Cape Winelands district municipality’s fire services along with CapeNature, the Overberg district municipality and the Fire Protection Association (FPA) are tackling the blaze, burning in inaccessible areas high in the mountains, in the back end of Banhoek and Jonkershoek valleys.

Local government, environmental affairs and development planning MEC Anton Bredell said on Friday that fire teams had worked throughout the night in a bid to contain the fire.

“Fresh teams replaced the overnight shift this morning and the work continues, particularly within the high-risk areas,” he said.

There are 107 firefighters on the scene with eight purpose-built firefighting vehicles. The Stellenbosch fire service and emergency services are on standby.

“Aerial resources will be deployed when conditions are favourable. The terrain is very mountainous and the strong wind isn’t helping. The forecast for the weekend is for the hot and windy conditions to prevail,” said Bredell.

Hiking and biking enthusiasts were advised that all trails in the area were closed until further notice. “Please avoid the area and trails leading to the area as the variable winds can change direction at short notice which may pose a serious threat.”

Residents in the vicinity of the fire and Jonkershoek Valley were advised to take precautionary steps, including:

  • remain hydrated;
  • keep windows and doors closed until further notice as protection against smoke and heat;
  • keep pets indoors where possible;
  • move garden furniture that is flammable under cover where possible; and
  • if the situation gets worse, residents will be alerted timeously.

“There is no need for panic or fear - there are experienced teams on site and the situation is being closely monitored at all times,” said Bredell.